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Spring comes early in Goleta, with harbingers announced in February, a shock to my midwestern system of weather management. Suddenly I found myself mesmerized by flowers showing up everywhere, what I started calling a “flower explosion”, with spurts in February and steady increases in March.  By April it was a total takeover, and in one short block in my neighborhood, there were flamboyant displays of floral pinks, oranges, purples, reds, lavenders, whites, blues and yellows.  Though I had lived in the bay area for 11 years, the flower show that emerged over the last several months exceeded any experiences I had there, though of course I had lived there during drought years.


We had a “wet winter”, which clearly helped give plants, bushes, trees, climbing vines and ground cover an opportunity to announce their “green season’ with a floral display that escalated daily.  While mesmerized, I also knew that for each blossom charming me, this was a celebration with an expiration date, since each would quickly fade, drop off and die.  For now, however, it was time to celebrate.  And I did.


Flowers have always had a powerful role in my life.  Several manifestations of nature have power in my life, and each appears to have a unique function.  For instance, the ocean evokes reflection, a sense of infinity and impermanence, a certitude that everything is connected, and for me, always, a coming home.  Sunrises, sunsets, moonscapes and the moon itself, especially full moons, always evoke awe and wonder, an arresting experience where everything stops for a moment to take in the moment of splendor.


Flowers, I have learned, are my instantaneous catalyst for joy.  I can still vividly remember the first time I found a violet growing wild in a forested area.  I was a young child and was frustrated that absolutely no one else found this amazing discovery worthy of prolonged celebration.  I created my first bouquet from wild little violets in the spring. Keeping on alert for wild violets became part of how I lived my life, and still is.


Once as a child at my aunt and uncle’s farm, I was sent out to bring a lunch to my uncle and his coworkers planting a field. To get to them, I had to pass what I experienced as an endless meadow. It was full of flowering clover, mostly white with some purple. I was stunned. I hurried back to tell my aunt that I had found a whole field of flowers.  I was ecstatic. She was dismissive, telling me it is “just clover, food for the cows”. She grew amazing flower beds and even competed in flower arranging. I was utterly confused at her dismissal of a whole field of flowers.


I used to think that this joy response to flowers was unique to me, but over time I have become convinced that this is the “work” of flowers, their purpose: to simply be there evoking joy for anyone who pays attention. Flowers have a short life cycle; they are glorious, lovely, sometimes gentle, sometimes extravagant. They simply arrive and make their statement, then just as quickly leave.  During that flash of glory, they can bring joy to even the most closed heart.  I have noticed that for me, they always evoke a smile.  This impresses me.


One sequence with flowers was something of a turning point for me in my relationship with flowers.  As I grappled with the endless challenges that go with a divorce, I was particularly anxious about finances since both my daughters were on the brink of creating college tuition expenses.  I knew it was going to be a time of fiscal challenge and caution.  Strangely I then told myself that no matter how many ways I would have to “cut back”, I would hold myself to always having at least one living flower in my house at all times.  And it was a commitment I honored, and still honor.  During the challenging times, it was often a single rose because I could buy these solo performers at the grocery store.  They were the bright force of joy, the place where I always knew I would smile, and bringing them into my home was always “a good time”.


Looking back, I can see that I was deliberately creating my investment in joy.  I did not realize it then, but see it clearly in retrospect. It has often left me pondering the power of creating the conditions for how we would like our lives to be experienced.  Most people want joy, appreciate joy, welcome joy, and are even grateful for moments of joy. Often though, we seem to hope it will be delivered to us, sort of the Door Dash of Delight, as if joy is to be provided by others and we are passive recipients.  We also can find ourselves defining our “joy expectations” of life, and then lamenting when life fails to deliver.


My ”live flower in the house” practice has taught me that I can take the initiative for ensuring moments of joy in my life, that I can create the conditions for that inevitable smile the roses in the kitchen are evoking, that joy can be a gift but it can also be a practice, a low key celebration of the dimensions of human existence that inevitably evoke joy-fullness. Our choices always have consequences. I often wonder if the flowers realize that I am working to ensure their purpose for existence is fulfilled.


“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

- Rumi -


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